Friday, May 31, 2013

A foray back to daily Mass on the Feast of the Visitation...

So, a couple of interesting Catholic tidbits to share today. The first is that my new experiment with Magnificat magazine, after my first full month, is officially a success. I use it pretty much every day. I don't often get to the evening prayers, but I say morning prayer nearly every morning, and I use it for Mass on Sundays as well. I've also read nearly all of the daily meditations and saint stories. It tucks easily into my purse, and I have it for all of the needs that I just mentioned in one compact source. It's quite perfect.

And today, I used it for daily Mass. :) It's been a long time since I've been to a true daily Mass, usually attending during the week only when there is a holy day of obligation. But I used to go all the time back when I was in law school and working as an attorney. My schedule, as well as my location, worked out such that I could make it nearly every day back then. I also went occasionally when I was in college, which is what initially turned me on to what daily Mass truly was.

Daily Mass is pretty much the reason why I'm a committed Catholic today, and didn't just laze around in terms of my spirituality when I was a young adult. I had always assumed that it was like Sunday Mass, just during the week. It's not. It's a lot shorter (less readings and you don't recite the Creed, usually a more concise homily as well), but it packs a heck of a powerful punch. As well, many parishes don't celebrate daily Mass in the main church, having a separate, small chapel for this purpose so that they don't have to worry about heating/cooling the larger space. Obviously, there will be a much smaller crowd for daily Mass as opposed to Sunday, but the people that do go form this cohesive little community. It's comforting to see the same faces all the time, there is a feeling of camaraderie. And these are people who treasure the Mass and the Eucharist, so the reverence level is high.

It was a huge boon to my faith life when I started to attend daily Mass in law school, and that is when the religious vocation discernment took place. After I graduated, I went during my lunch break at work, Our cathedral downtown had a beautiful daily Mass chapel that I could walk to in under 5 minutes.

When I started working as a librarian/went to library school (both at the same place) it wasn't as easy. There is a Newman Center here, but they only have daily Mass during the main semesters, and even then only 3 times per week. My schedule is also different here, I often have classes or meetings that conflict with the Mass time.

At first, when the Newman Center was an easy walk from my office, I would go down there occasionally for Mass. Then, last year, they built a new, gorgeous Newman Center building, which is great, but I can't walk to it. It necessitates a short drive (this is a fairly large campus) and parking here is at a premium. I didn't want to leave my spot and then have to agonize over finding a new one when I returned. Plus, all that walking out to the lot and driving to and from took my time away from my office from about 20 minutes to 40 or 45. It just didn't work.

But I had always wondered about the daily Mass at our parish. The church is maybe a 2 minute drive from our house, and they have an 8 am Mass. I usually like to get to work around 8:30, but even with attending Mass I knew I would get in before 9 am. I just often have 9 am commitments and didn't want to be feeling rushed. Well, today I had no meetings, classes, or reference shifts on my calendar and I knew the opportunity was nigh. It's also the summer, and so parking is easy. I was going to daily Mass.

I left my house at approximately 7:53 am and made it in plenty of time. The small daily Mass chapel, located in the parish center, has it's own small parking lot that I had never used before. I arrived, collected my stuff and headed in.

I was unprepared for the amount of people in there. The chapel was pretty full. I suddenly remembered that the parish Women's Sodality prays the rosary after daily Mass for the month of May, and so they must all make a special effort to come during that time. A quick perusal confirmed Mike's suspicion that, when I expressed an interest in joining the Women's Sodality, I would likely be the youngest member by at least 15-20 years. :) I slipped into a seat and scanned my Magnificat while I waited for Mass to start. There was a featured meditation on the Feast of the Visitation, since that is what we are celebrating today. Love!

I recognized all of the people present from Mass on Sundays. Many of them also serve as lectors or Eucharistic ministers, or in the choir. I sensed some interest generated amongst the congregation that a new person was suddenly in their daily Mass midst, though I'm sure they recognized me. It's not often that a new person will start going to daily Mass, especially when it's not Advent or Lent.

The chapel was quite warm (it's pretty hot here today, at least by my standards :)) but Mass was lovely. I just feel so *good* when I go to daily Mass. It's the perfect way to start your day. After Mass, Father exposed the host in a monstrance, and I stayed to pray for a few minutes before they started the rosary. I was on my way to work by 8:30 am.

So, this pretty much seals the deal that whenever I don't have a 9 am commitment I'm going to go there for Mass in the mornings all summer. It was just smashing.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Feast of Corpus Christi: need your input :)

Short post today, all, since I really don't have any good ideas for things to talk about. I think this is because I waited until after 3 pm after which time nary a useful thought enters my head. But I do have a request: This Sunday I'm doing Children's Liturgy of the Word, perhaps for the last time. It's going to be the feast of Corpus Christi. I've been trying to incorporate additional interesting things into the lesson each week besides the readings, such as talking about the rosary in May, and the chaplet of Divine Mercy in April. I was thinking that I would discuss some saints who were devoted to the Eucharist. This is where you come in. :)

I thought of Blessed Imelda, but does anybody else have additional suggestions? I'd like to read them some relevant saint stories, that's always a crowd pleaser. :) If you have a saint suggestion, please do leave a comment, with a link to the saint's story.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Did anybody else contemplate becoming a nun?

So, it seems in my experience, that many devout Catholic women that I have met have considered a religious vocation at some earlier point in their life. I am no exception.

Back when I first embraced my faith as an adult in my early 20's, I did think about the religious life. I can't say I thought too deeply about a contemplative order, more of an active order, perhaps teaching. There were some aspects of a contemplative vocation that appealed to me, but I didn't feel that God was calling me to that. Nor to any sort of religious community, ultimately.

Well, relatedly, on this week's episode of the Catholic Weekend podcast (# 174, I believe), the guest was Channing Dale, a young woman who is joining a Discalced Carmelite monastery in Pennsylvania in July. I was completely captivated.

Even though I do not have a religious vocation, I remain fascinated with those who do. I loved hearing her story of how she came to discern her vocation and the order to which she felt called. I have to admit, as a parent, I do find the thought of an enclosed, contemplative order like the Discaled Carmelites to be more intimidating than I used to. :) If my daughter were to join an order like this, I wouldn't get to see or talk to her very much anymore, and I would mourn that relationship I used to share with her. I know that's selfish, but I'm just being honest, and it's how I feel. I would certainly still support her decision, and of course, it would be an incredibly special thing to have a nun in the family. I'm sure I would be thrilled, it would just take some serious getting used-to.

In the world that we live in, a contemplative vocation is very hard to imagine. I get so much out of "my" Catholic community online, that the thought of being cut off from that makes me feel bereft. Social networking, online news sites, message boards, all of that stuff. I log on every day just to see what is going on in the Catholic world and in the Catholic community that I hold dear. It would be very difficult to not have that emotional support anymore. Even though I'm not the most extroverted person, I also cannot imagine living mostly in silence and not being able to talk to someone whenever I wanted to. Of course, this is all because I do not have a vocation to the Carmelite life; those that do are able to thrive in these circumstances.

If you find these sorts of stories interesting as well, definitely listen to this podcast. I was very taken with it. Channing talks about the order, the specific monastery she will be entering, her discernment and preparation, and how she is in fact cutting herself off from social media in mid-June. Good stuff.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A return to Ordinary Time...

This isn't exactly new news, since Pentecost was over a week ago, but I was reflecting on it more this past weekend (and feast of the Holy Trinity :)). It'll be Ordinary Time now until Advent, so we have quite a long stretch ahead of us. But lots of interesting feasts mixed in there, so we'll stay entertained to be sure.

Coming off of this Memorial Day weekend, I'm feeling very reflective. I spoke a bit last week about my cousin who committed suicide very unexpectedly (not that that sort of thing can ever really be expected) and the devastation in the family that he left behind. I mentioned that we were all struggling to understand *why* he would do something so drastic. Well, I can't really go into any sort of detail, but I can say that we learned some information over the weekend and we now know why he did it. And the story isn't pleasant, as you would expect. There's nothing that we can do about it, obviously, and knowledge can be painful. But we soldier on as best we can.

In trying to see some positive, summer is approaching, which is usually my least favorite time of year (yes, I'm a freak) but this year I'm really looking forward to it. We're all prepared with our air conditioners (we finally purchased a portable unit for Anne's room, which is a big relief) so it should be fine. And I'm looking forward to lots of dance events and family gatherings. Mike and I also watch lots of good tv and movies in the summer together. :)

Oh! Speaking of dance, we're throwing around ideas for a new choreography, and I'm terribly, terribly excited. I may have the opportunity to learn to balance a candle tray (yes, just what I need, to add FIRE into the range of things that can go wrong when I dance) and/or Isis Wings. Both are new props to me, and I love learning new things. Balancing a tray is much more difficult than balancing a sword, so it would definitely be a challenge. Very, very excited about this.

But otherwise, I'm hoping just for a quiet and prayerful summer.

Speaking of praying, Pray More Novenas is slated to being the June novena tomorrow, and this year we're doing a novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Join us. :)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Happy 2nd Birthday Anne!

It's hard to believe, but my baby is two.


She had a great day. She had balloons, pizza, cake, and babies to play with. She was very nurturing with her twin cousins. She kept giving them toys to play with. :)

She received some new clothes, some books, a Dora doll and toy Backpack (which is her favorite, I think, she loves that Backpack; although inexplicably she crumpled up Map, who she is normally so loving toward), some more princesses for her Disney Princess Castle, and her own shopping cart. She had a great day.

Anne loves to be around big groups of people, so large family gatherings are a lot of fun for her. We had about 20 people stuffed into our house, but it all went great. A box of wine in the refrigerator always helps with that. :) Nobody died from fatal red velvet cupcake consumption and it was nice to be able to see everyone and talk.

And those twins. For the love of all that is holy, THEY ARE CUTE. They're over 7 months old now, and are sitting up, playing with toys, drooling, and generally trying to get into trouble as they work to get mobile. Andrew in particular (my Godson, *beams*) has eyes the size of DINNER PLATES, I've never seen a baby with bigger eyes. SO CUTE.

I'm going to be off for Memorial Day weekend, including tomorrow, so I won't blog until next Tuesday. But we'll be busy, rest assured. We're going to be taking Henry on a little day trip, visiting with some friends, picnicking with family, all that good holiday weekend stuff. I have dance tomorrow and we're going to talk about what we want to do for a new choreography, OH BOY. This could get interesting. With more space we can try out some equally large new props. Wings of Isis were dropped into the conversation, hopefully nobody will get smothered to death. Have I mentioned how much I love belly dance? It's never boring with belly dance in my life, I can tell you that.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A sword wielding kind of night

So, my big hafla this past Saturday. It went well. :) I was nervous because I had many more people than usual attending to see me dance, and you know, you really don't want to screw up and make a fool of yourself. I like to keep those humility-inducing occasions to an absolute minimum.

The day started off fairly hectic with a trip to see the twins (so cute! I would *still* be kissing their faces if they were here) and then an attempt to straighten the house and bake red velvet cupcakes for Anne's birthday party the following day. Well.

I shouldn't be allowed to bake, let me tell you. Cooking I'm good at, but baking? Even making something out of a box appears to be just too much for me to handle. As evidenced by my work product every.single.time. I mean, *every* time! What is it with me? Do I not have the baking gene? I don't know, but it ain't pretty.

I read the box carefully (snort!). I painstakingly measure out one and a quarter cups of water. Next comes the vegetable oil. My brain tells me that the box just said to add one and a third cups of oil. "Gee, that sounds like an awful lot of vegetable oil," I say to myself as I fill up a measuring cup and dump it in.

People, let this be a lesson to you; learn from my baking mistakes so that you too do not have to suffer from bad cupcakes:


Did Tiffany listen to the voice? SHE DID NOT. The instant the oil hit the mix I knew something was wrong. I carefully pick the box back up and examine it. It did NOT say to add one and a third cups of oil. It said to add *one third of a cup*.

Yeah, that's a big difference.

I had only put in one cup at that point but seriously gentle reader, THAT'S STILL A LOT OF OIL.

I panic. In a lucid interval, I realize that the oil has not absorbed into the mix, so I can dump some of it out. Said dumping is undertaken. I eliminate much of the oil, but I don't get all of it, and the mix does need *some* oil, so I leave the rest. I'm feeling anxious about continuing on, but going to the store to get another mix is just not a possibility given the schedule I have for Saturday. Mike is on a Cub Scouts hike with Hank, and poor Anne has been abandoned in front of the t.v. watching Dora so that I can bake and hear myself think at the same time. After my baking attempt, I have tons of dance preparation to do and I just don't need this complication.

In a frenzied call to my sister, she suggests scraping the mix and making the cake from scratch. It's not a bad suggestion, but I know I'm not up to the task. If the mix fails Plan B is to go to the bakery and buy a cake. I continue on with the mix and pray for the best.

As I talk to Shauna'h, I try to spoon the mix into the cupcake wraps. Right, it was runny. Far too runny to be normal. I contemplate crying, but instead do the mature thing and just messily continuing spooning the mix in while swearing at it. I stick the cupcakes into the oven.

They puff up quickly. That seemed abnormal but then again I was really feeling paranoid by that point. As they finish I really thought I was going to have to run to the bakery, but an inserted toothpick comes out clean, much to my shock. I let them cool and notice that they are all greasy on  their little cake cup bottoms.

Much sighing commences. I'll preview for you the birthday party post which will appear tomorrow by saying that they were deemed safe to consume, but frosting them resulted in pulled up cupcake bits everywhere and just an overall odd look about them. My next text to my sister:

"Your mission, should you choose to accept it: get everybody drunk so that they don't notice the cupcakes. Go!"

Ok, so back to dancing. I was nervous. I packed up 3 costumes, all my assorted dance junk, practiced all my numbers, and told myself that I was excited and ready to dance like I may never belly dance again. I'm not making that up, I *really* told myself that. Out loud. In the car on the way to the studio. Yes, I was talking to myself. Desperate times call for desperate measures.  I was already shaky enough from the cupcake debacle.

I arrive, drop off some hummus at the potluck table, and suit up. I'm nervous. Really nervous. We had a group number first, in the new gold costumes. It went fine, but my veil got caught on my top and resulted in a yank followed by a rhinestone rocketing off my chest at an alarming speed and into the audience. Oh, and I couldn't get my veil tied around my hips at the requisite moment, but I'm happy to report that I did not panic. I refolded and reapproached and it did tie nanoseconds before I had to turn around. Then when I had to *untie* it for the dramatic finale it gave me a hard time coming untied. Have I mentioned that I frequently hate my veil? He and I do not get along as well as Sword and I do.

Anyway, dramatic finale. The audience was kind of quiet, that happens a lot when we dance with canes. Perhaps people are scared. :) Other group numbers followed, and then our group had another piece. That one went really well aside from a bad traffic pattern at the very beginning. Then it was time for the solos.

Oh sigh.

I'm always nervous when I solo, but I was especially nervous on Saturday because of The Sword Factor. And when I get nervous, my palms get sweaty and I get a little shaky. I think we can all agree that:

Sweat + Shaky = Not a Good Combination When You're Going to Wield and Try to Belly Dance with a Sword Balanced on Your Head.

I'll spare you the nausea-inducing lead up details. Suffice it to say I was feeling uneasy. But I had prepared, what more could I do?

Claire placed my sword. I was introduced. My music started. I strut out.

The beginning was really good. I had a little sword lead up process that worked really well. When I picked the sword up, I balanced it on my arm to carry it up to the audience.

Really hard to see, but that's what I was doing. :) Mike, my photographer, was sitting toward the back.

I balanced it on my hand a bit, and generally swirled it around while I danced prior to balancing it on my head. Then the big moment arrived.

I lifted it to my head. Everybody is staring at me. This is the moment that I remember from the restaurant that made my heart stop, but this time I was prepared for it. I placed the sword and I *knew* that I was going to feel that it was unsteady. I gave it one more nudge to "screw it in" for good measure and took my hands off of it. It stayed on.


I knew that would happen, but it's still quite nerve wracking, as you can imagine. People applauded, which made me happy. I danced, and I knew that I was nervous, and you know, I was dancing with a sword on my head, so it's not like I could go crazy. I traveled a little, dipped down (one of my favorite sword tricks) and generally tried to call to mind movements that fit with the music. It went well. I spun at the end, which earned me more happy applause. I didn't spin at the restaurant because I was just too nervous, so I felt really good to have gotten back on that horse.

Soon enough, the music ended and I struck my final pose. I always feel like my practicing goes better than my performing because my performance nerves diminish my dance ability a bit. But every time I perform that gets better and better. And I felt good about the performance. It was definitely worlds better than my sword dance at the restaurant, and I got lots of very nice compliments from the audience after the show. They loved Sword as much as I do. I even had someone ask if they could take a picture of me with it.

I felt glowy and happy. :)

The comfort of liturgy

I sense that this will be a multi-post day :) so stay tuned for some belly dance talk if you enjoy that sort of thing. But it's been a tough couple of days and I wanted to write a bit about that first.

Death is one of those situations in which we take comfort in ritual and being in the presence of others, of our community. And ritual doesn't just involve a religious ceremony. The "wake" process always struck me as being a death ritual that many people find great comfort in. Having the deceased laid out for us to pay our respects to and pray in front of their mortal remains, leaving flowers, gathering together to talk and support each other, processing to the cemetery, etc.

And as a Catholic, I obviously find great sacredness, joy, and comfort in religious ritual and liturgy. It struck me anew yesterday at the funeral, which was at a Christian church of a decidedly non-liturgical bent. We sang some hymns, the pastor presented a sermon, the associate pastor read some scripture. All of these are very good things, things that Catholics do too, of course. :) I just find such great comfort in the standard words and pace of the Mass, in physical sacramentals like holy water and incense, in the presence of holy reminders like icons, statutes, candles and stained glass, in the Eucharist. Everything feels empty to me without the Eucharist, but I understand that not everybody believes as I do.

I'm certain plenty of non-Catholics feel uncomfortable in a Catholic worship experience, so it goes both ways. But I did miss my Catholic "stuff" yesterday quite a bit. This church, though, was very welcoming and the pastors very kind.

We're all still incredibly sad but glad to have the formal events behind us since those do suck the life right out of you. I found out about Michael's death this past Sunday morning, right before I went to Mass for the feast of Pentecost. To be honest, I didn't really feel like going anywhere after I found out, but I knew that Mass would be soothing, and it was. As I reflected on the death of someone that I loved, I realized that someone was being baptized during the Mass. Not an infant, but a young girl of maybe 13. She had on a beautiful white dress, it was so lovely. So it was a full circle sort of day. Someone had died, but there is also life, and where there is life, there is hope.

After Mass Henry and I lit a 7 day vigil candle for Michael. Henry's dream is always lighting a candle after Mass, and he was thrilled to be able to get "the big one." I appreciated having him there with me.

Monday, May 20, 2013

What a weekend...

And although there was a lot of good that happened this weekend, I don't mean that title in the good sense. I'll write separate posts about my hafla and Anne's birthday and my sister's visit, but everything was overshadowed this weekend by a tragic event.

Sunday morning I found out that my mom's first cousin, whom I've known and loved throughout my life, had died. That's always tragic, obviously, and he was only in his 60's. But to make the news even more difficult to bear is the fact that he took his own life.

Suicide. That single word brings forth pain in a way that is just unspeakable.

When somebody dies, in our human nature we want answers. How did they die? *Why* did they die? And with suicide, it's really impossible to get inside somebody's head to understand what would drive them to feel that this is their only option. I don't know right now if he left a note or not, but even then, those left behind never have the answers that they feel they need.

We're all still very much grappling with this news and the wake and funeral hang on the horizon like depressing black clouds. It feels surreal, like he isn't really gone, and nobody can picture the man that we knew doing this.

But let me tell you a little bit about him, because it's a beautiful story, albeit tragic. His name is Michael. He comes from a devout Catholic family. His mom, Marie, and father, John (both now deceased) were devoted to each other, to their children, and to their Catholic faith. When the rest of their extended family left the Church for nondenominational Christianity, Aunt Marie would love to come talk to us about her love of the Blessed Mother and the rosary since we were one of the few remaining Catholics in the family on that side.

She told me a story once that I never forgot. When Michael was a little boy, she was very much wanting to conceive another child. She had some sort of health complication, and her doctor told her that he didn't think she would conceive again. Thus, she developed a prayer plan. Every day in 9 day segments, she would take little Michael and they would go to church to pray a novena in front of a statue of the Blessed Mother, asking the Lord to bless their family with another child.

After a time, she did conceive, and bore a healthy daughter that she named Francesca. Francesca was just a light in the family. She had this loud, infectious laugh that you could hear no matter where she was in the house. Michael did too, in fact. You could always identify their location based upon hearing them laugh, which was frequently. :)

Aunt Marie died when I was a teenager, and her husband John was just lost without her. He went to live with Francesca and her family. Not very long after, Francesca, who was in the mid-30's at the time, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She lived for a few more years with treatment, but died at age 38.

Her death was a devastating blow to the family. She had a husband and young children left behind, and now her dad was reeling even more. Francesca and Michael had both chosen to be members of an Assembly of God church as adults, but Uncle John never lost his Catholic faith. It was a source of comfort to him during this painful time.

This was one of my first experiences with Hospice care, and with seeing somebody die well before their time when we all knew it was coming. It was horrible. It always bothered me that Aunt Marie had prayed so hard for Francesca to be born and yet she died far too young.

Some years later, Uncle John passed away. And then there was just Michael.

He had a family. A wife, 2 grown daughters, and grandchildren. A successful career. Apparently his wife had started to suffer from dementia, although none of us knew this until this weekend. If this factored into the situation, I do not know. But my mom has spoken to him a lot recently and nothing ever seemed amiss. On Wednesday, I posted a photo of Anne on Facebook, and he commented on how beautiful she is. I clicked the "like" button on his comment. I've "seen" him a lot on Facebook over the past couple of years, and I enjoyed having him called to mind since I didn't physically see him much in my day-to-day life outside of big family events.

He was extremely affable, easy going, funny and sweet. Would do anything for you that you asked. His Facebook profile picture is of his grandchildren. I see that he checked into Facebook Wednesday evening via his mobile phone, that's when he saw Anne's picture and commented. Two days later he killed himself.

It's almost like my heart breaks for my Aunt Marie even though she isn't here anymore. This is her child. And I cry thinking about what he must have been thinking right before he did this. How much emotional pain he must have been in that none of us even knew about.

There are no answers, no explanations. And the older one gets, the more death you experience. It never gets easier.

Please pray for the repose of Michael's soul. He was a devout Christian, and I know that he would appreciate it.

This week I will post about the hafla and the party, both of which have some good stories attached, so stay tuned. But obviously, this was much more important. My heart is heavy, but I press on. What other choice do we have, really?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A week in review, and a weekend preview...

Things are getting back to normal in the CL household. The furniture is all moved back, the new couch is installed, the children are cavorting in the freshened space. Things are good.

In an answer to prayer, Henry is absolutely loving the Cub Scouts, and is now officially a member at our parish's pack. He's a wolf cub; did you ever?! It's just the cutest thing of all time. He now has an official tee shirt, a badge, and a handbook. He's going on his first hike on Saturday and is terribly excited. I'm SO happy that he seems to have found a niche that he likes.

Anne (who will be the birthday girl on Saturday, *sniffle*) has been talking a blue streak and seems to have mastered a new skill daily. She asked to wear a *tutu* last night and paraded around the house singing and dancing. Where did this extroverted kid come from?

My sister and the twins arrive tonight for a visit, and I'm *terribly* excited. It is going to be a packed weekend of baby squeezing, birthday partying, and belly dancing.

Speaking of belly dancing, my sword and I have been communing nightly and our rapport is excellent. A classmate of mine and I were writing back and forth to each other in a Facebook private message about the coming hafla, and she remarked "I can't wait to see you and your sword!" It was adorable, reminded me of when Claire called my sword my "dance partner," lol. Every time I practice dancing back to retrieve the sword during my number, I telepathically send him his message:

"I respect you. I'm going to handle you carefully and show you off."

I hope that means that he will remain preening on my head, but of course, there are no guarantees. But my practicing is going well. I'm looking forward to performing (or, at least, I keep telling myself that) and thus I should just relax and enjoy everything. Life is short; I shouldn't waste it being a wallflower. 

I practiced in my gold costume last night, since I haven't worn it in awhile. The usual checks were employed:

(1) stayed on body, check.

(2) modesty panels did not shift, check.

(3) no leaking beads, check.

(4) no otherwise unforeseen malfunctions, check.

All systems are a go. You can bet that I will be reporting in.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Happy Feast of St. Isidore the Farmer!

May 15th is the feast of St. Isidore the Farmer, patron of this humble blog for the year 2013. :) Interestingly, he has become a favorite of Henry's since he appears in one of his children's saints books. He has requested that I read St. Isidore's story at least a half dozen times this year, and I can't help but think that this saint has taken a special interest in our family.

Cam, he has requested a St. Isidore peg doll, so I'll be visiting your saint store again soon. :)

Henry was all excited today that since St. Isidore was specifically noted in his school planner, this means that the principal will read his story during the morning announcements. Precious.

From American we have this blurb on St. Isidore:

"Isidore has become the patron of farmers and rural communities. In particular he is the patron of Madrid, Spain, and of the United States National Rural Life Conference.

When he was barely old enough to wield a hoe, Isidore entered the service of John de Vergas, a wealthy landowner from Madrid, and worked faithfully on his estate outside the city for the rest of his life. He married a young woman as simple and upright as himself who also became a saint—Maria de la Cabeza. They had one son, who died as a child.

Isidore had deep religious instincts. He rose early in the morning to go to church and spent many a holiday devoutly visiting the churches of Madrid and surrounding areas. All day long, as he walked behind the plow, he communed with God. His devotion, one might say, became a problem, for his fellow workers sometimes complained that he often showed up late because of lingering in church too long.

He was known for his love of the poor, and there are accounts of Isidore’s supplying them miraculously with food. He had a great concern for the proper treatment of animals.

He died May 15, 1130, and was declared a saint in 1622 with Ignatius of Loyola, Francis Xavier, Teresa of Avila and Philip Neri. Together, the group is known in Spain as 'the five saints.'"

Henry's saint book notes that sometimes angels were seen to be pushing the plow in St. Isidore's absence, this is one of his favorite parts. Stories of saints from centuries ago are rife with these pious details, and I always make sure to tell Henry that while some such specifics may simply be legends, the person was definitely real and holy in their example.

Good stuff. :)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

New floors...

Here are the promised photos of our hardwood floor. :)

You can see all of the paint that was splattered and the plywood they previous owners inserted when they widened the entryway between living room and dining room.

Here is Anne, with the plywood. :) Can you believe that my precious baby girl will be *2* this weekend? Where does the time go?!


Another area of heavy damage, over by the fireplace.

And now for the after:

Plywood all gone. :) You can see a bit that the newer wood looks slightly different than the older, but all in all it looks worlds better.

So, so much better.

This is that area by the fireplace. You'd never know it was the same floor.

We're very, very happy. We're homebodies, and we spend a lot of time in our house, so it's nice to have it looking its best. Our new couch is coming today and we should be fully back to normal by tomorrow. We still haven't moved all of the furniture back because Mike is so worried about scratching the new floor. Isn't he adorable? I came in to find to 2 recliners, our coffee table, several lamps and the entertainment center/television all arranged carefully on the area rug on Sunday. I told him that he was precious, but that we simply *had* to find another solution so that we could live like normal people again. :) We're bound for Home Depot tonight to find some felt pads to put underneath the potentially scratchy stuff.

I'm also taking Hank to Toys 'R Us to pick up a birthday gift for Anne that he's chosen. Toys 'R Us sent her a birthday card with a birthday club voucher that we can use. It's for $3. Didn't it used to be $5? Man, everybody is cutting back. :)

But before all of these errands tonight, I'm going to confession this afternoon and taking Henry with me. This will be only the second time he's received this sacrament. He's nervous, and it's very cute. But it's so nice that I can share this experience with him now.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Breaking pro-life news...

And now I feel guilty about my Mother's Day rant, because even if I dislike the commercialism and exhaustion of Mother's Day I do love being a mother and I certainly don't want to give the impression otherwise, even in an attempt at humor. Because in decidedly less than humorous news, abortion provider Kermit Gosnell has been found guilty of 3 counts of first degree murder, and 1 count of involuntary manslaughter, as well he should have.

Reading about this case just tears my heart wide open. Even though I consider myself staunchly pro-life, I rarely talk about abortion on this blog. It's not because I don't care, I care very, very much. I just think that oftentimes the discussion isn't productive and prayer is more effective.

But this is a case on which a person cannot remain silent. It's so disturbing and extreme that I think we would be hard pressed to find anybody, no matter how firmly pro-choice, who thinks that what this man did should be legal. I know that many proponents of legal abortion are worried that this case may mean a tightening up of restrictions on it, and frankly they are right to be worried.

We cannot live in a civilized society and let this man go unpunished. I don't think he should pay with his life, although hundreds of precious babies paid with theirs. I do hope that he is imprisoned for the rest of his natural life.

May God forgive us all, and may Our Lady of Fatima pray for us.

Who hates Mother's Day?

Inquiring minds want to know. :)

I give you the story of a Mother's Day journey, one that started out fairly innocuous, but somewhere along the line went terribly awry. Let us begin some 30 plus years ago, in a land not so far away...

When I was a little girl, Mother's Day was, you know, fine. I don't really remember it too much. I would get my mom something nice and that would be the end of it. That's the innocuous part.

Fast forward to my first Mother's Day as a mother. Henry was about 6 months old. At this point, I hadn't slept through the night uninterrupted since the moment he was born. Oh, and tack on an additional 9 months since we all know you sleep like crap when you're pregnant. So it's been well over a year with foul garbage sleep. Henry was NOT a great sleeper. And he was an early teether, so at 6 months we're talking multiple, multiple wake ups that, as a first time parent, I was completely unprepared for. In hind sight, I really think I had some postpartum depression in the year after I had Henry.

On that particular Mother's Day we had had an especially challenging night. Bone weary, I went to Mass and then hustled around to get ready to meet my parents for brunch. Somehow, in our delirium, Mike and I manage to get Henry buckled into his car seat and we're underway to the restaurant. Upon arrival, I make an upsetting realization: I was so out of it that I left my mom's gift at home.

What does any mature, self-respecting woman do at this juncture? She bursts into tears, of course. As in uncontrollable sobs, right in the middle of the restaurant.

Everybody was very worried about me. "What's wrong?!" they all want to know.

I've always remembered my answer. "I'm just so tired."

And I meant that in every possible sense. Physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, I had nothing left to give.

The exhaustion had nothing to do with Mother's Day, but it seems that somehow it left bad karma for every future Mother's Day to come. Regularly, each Mother's Day, we're dealing with:

(1) extraction of a tantruming child from Mass;

(2) extraction of a tantruming child from a restaurant;

(3) travel to multiple locations to see both mothers and any grandmothers;

(4) Mike and I picking fights with each other because we're both so tired and aggravated.

To illustrate, we have Mother's Day 2013:

We all go to Mass as a family, something that doesn't happen as much as I'd like and that I treasure. The Gospel hasn't even been read before Anne causes trouble out in the aisle and has to be picked up. Her arched back response is an immediate clue that she needs to be extracted. Mike does the honors, and I don't see him for at least 20 minutes. They come back in right before communion and Anne does behave for the rest of Mass. A short, frantic time at home and then we have to leave for brunch with my family. This is right during Anne's nap time. She cries upon being buckled into her car seat and is surly at brunch. Toward the end, she flings herself on the floor and we exit the restaurant in disgrace. We (oops, Freudian) *she* sobs for half the ride home. Upon arrival at home she is immediately escorted to her crib where she screams again for a short time before passing out (and clearly, this is all due to her not getting a properly timed nap, which is *our* fault, but the Mother's Day plans always aggravate this problem). During the nap, we move furniture back into our main living spaces. Anne wakes up in such a foul mood that I have to *chase her around her crib* to pull her out, and I think it was around this time that I thought to myself,

"Good gracious, I hate Mother's Day."

Mike's parents come over just as I get Anne calmed down. We visit. They leave and we deal with a whiny Henry and an oversensitive Anne for the remainder of the night. We're all far too stuffed from our late brunch to make the nice dinner that we had planned. Neither child goes to bed soon enough to suit me. By the time they are finally both asleep, I'm too beat to even have a glass of wine.

Happy Mother's Day to me.

Which I hope doesn't come across as selfish. I mean, I don't really care if I have a nice Mother's Day because I think that Mother's Day is a made up Hallmark holiday that I wish we could all forget about. Except if we did that other people would think that we were horrible, horrible individuals with no souls.

All weekend long, I hear "Happy Mother's Day!! Do you have any nice plans?"

There are lots of people on this Mother's Day bandwagon, and I think everybody is so afraid that if they don't wish a woman a happy Mother's Day some permanent black mark will be entered onto their record. I find this very awkward, because I don't always know if I can say "and to you too!" back, because I often have no idea of whether a particular woman is a mother. And if she isn't, perhaps this is a painful topic for her, and I don't want to make her feel worse than she invariably already feels on this day.

Yes, my name is Tiffany, and I am an anti-Mother's Day-ite. Should there be a support group for us?

Mother's Day just feels so forced to me. I know that my family appreciates me, I don't need a special day for it. I truly hope that I make my mother and grandmother feel appreciated all year long, I know that I strive to.

Perhaps I'm just getting crotchedy in my old age. Use of the word "crotchedy" unfortunately bears this theory out, methinks. So, what say you? Does anybody else dislike Mother's Day?

Friday, May 10, 2013

Pray More Novenas, and a spring Knit-along...

After I signed up for the Holy Spirit Novena reminder yesterday (the first day is today for anybody that still wants to join along :)) I realized that the site that is running it actually does a novena every single month that you will automatically continue receiving in your email for as long as you stay enrolled. They correlate the novenas with given Church feasts, and there is usually some commentary along with the novena prayer. I was impressed. I had Day 1 of the Holy Spirit Novena waiting in my inbox when I logged in this morning. The site is Pray More Novenas. I really like it so far.

In other news, I'm participating in a spring knit-along, and as is usual, I'm all excited.

It's being run by Lion Brand yarn, and for anybody else that knits, all of the blog posts are here. I chose a forest green cotton/acrylic blend to make my tank, and I'm already to the armhole shaping on the back piece. Excited. :) I have to say, I'm glad this knit-along isn't a mystery. While I did very much enjoy the Downton Abbey Mystery KAL, I don't know when I'll do one of those again. The same company ran another Mystery KAL for Game of Thrones, which I didn't do because I don't watch that show. And I'm glad I didn't. :) I wasn't crazy about the finished object that it ended up becoming. This knit-along is refreshing. I have the whole pattern, so I know what I'm making and what is coming next. The KAL community simply provides some strategies each week and support via the group on Ravelry. I'm loving it.

In yet other news, our floor will be finished today, and it looks stunning. In a bold move, we took the kids out to dinner last night (to Chipotle - this is our absolute favorite place for fast food) and to a furniture store. Yes, we bought a new couch. This is the only new piece of furniture that Mike and I have purchased together in our entire married life save for our bed (meaning, a mattress, box spring and frame, not a real bedroom set) and our dining room set. Everything else we have received as hand-me-downs (which we're very grateful for) or purchased at a thrift store. We found something we liked that was within our budget, it was on sale, and the delivery price was more than reasonable. It's being delivered on Tuesday, and we're so excited we can hardly stand it. The thought of dragging our old sofa back into the house was just too depressing to contemplate. It's so large that we have to take our front door off the hinges to get it out, it's seen better days, and we just don't like its style. Slowly but surely, our house is becoming our own. :)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Novena to the Holy Spirit and a few liturgy musings...

Me again. :) I found a great site for the Holy Spirit novena that is slated to begin tomorrow and continue to Pentecost. This is a site that not only includes the prayers, but will email them to you each day so that you won't forget. I'm signed up. :)

In other news, I attended Mass this afternoon for the Feast of the Ascension like I mentioned, and I was left pondering something: what is the best way to address things that happen in Mass that go against Church law/rubrics? It wasn't like anything major happened at Mass today, but I did notice a few things, and then I kind of berated myself for noticing them. I should just be focusing on the Mass and the Eucharist, I told myself. But I can't help but notice such things. I'm not accustomed to seeing them, I guess I've been very lucky at the parishes that I've attended. But this was the Newman Center at the university I work at, and I get the feeling things are a bit more loosey goosey there. :)

I don't really think one *can* do much, unless it's something really egregious, which this wasn't. I don't want to sit there being "judgey" but on the other hand I don't think it's unreasonable to want the liturgy celebrated in the proscribed manner. It's all very curious.

Anybody have any wisdom to share?

Happy Feast of the Ascension!

Yes, I live in an area that did not transfer this feast to the following Sunday, which I didn't realize was so unusual. I'm headed to Mass in about 5 minutes. I do love holy days of obligation. Going to Mass during the week feels so decadent.

And speaking of upcoming Pentecost, the novena to the Holy Spirit begins tomorrow, and I'm going to be taking part. I'll post a link to where you can find the prayers online.

In totally unrelated news, the first coat of polyurethane went on our floors yesterday afternoon. Yes, our house smells like a chemical factory, but it looks beautiful. New shoe moulding is going on today and a second coat of polyurethane. We're almost there!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Fun with swords and toxic varnish

Ok, so our floors are now fully sanded and repaired. There is some dust, but honestly, it's not bad at all. This afternoon, the first coat of polyurethane will go on and thus will commence the fun. We can't walk on it (much) until Saturday, and can't move the furniture back until Sunday. But we're already to Wednesday, and that just seems promising, no?

We're going to keep the kids out of the house tonight until bedtime via Cub Scouts and a trip to the shoe store, and tomorrow we're going to pass some time at various furniture stores looking at potential new couches. One day at a time, we're slowly getting there.

Our floor guy has already told us we should keep the windows open all night to ventilate. I can't imagine the odor is going to be pleasant.

Anyway, last night I had a private lesson with Claire to brush up on some sword work, and it was AWESOME. We started with lots of sword talk, and she showed me some new arm suggestions and other such sword strategies. I love that she told me to see my sword as my "dance partner", lol! So I shouldn't chince out on introducing the sword to the audience prior to balancing it on my head. The only other time I've seen a prop addressed as a "dance partner," it was a snake, and this is the only instance in which I think that snakes are actually cute. Well, at least the snake in my head that has a face. A cute face that is inexplicably smiling.

Anyway, I digress, back to swords. We practiced some arms and other sword goodies, and then she asked me to put on my music and dance, which is the part I was dreading, ha! It is SO intimidating to dance solo in front of someone whose opinion you value so highly. But I need to be brave, so I did. It went fine, as the sword always does when I'm *practicing*. Performance is another story. But anyway, she gave me some excellent advice about interpreting the music in a way that is conducive to balancing. She helped me to see something that I hadn't realized, which is that when I improvise, I really tend to listen to and dance to the beat only, rather than the melody. I'm a percussion girl, unashamedly so, it's why I love drum solos so much. But this isn't a drum piece, it's very sweeping, slower in tempo than what I usually choose, with a classical Egyptian feel. My movements should mirror that "gushy" melody, rather than picking out staccato accents that my ear is hearing. It was very helpful, and I'm looking forward to practicing again with these new ideas in mind.

We spent a lot of time talking about where to place the sword for me to pick it up at the hafla and how I would pick it up.

"Make it a big deal! It should be somewhat dramatic!"

I'm not real good at inducing drama, but I'll do my best.

By the end of the hour, I was brushing off sweat. Very delicate and ladylike, no? It's hard work dancing by yourself, I tell you. I'll have some practice time tonight after I put Anne to bed but before Mike and Henry get back from scouts, and I'm excited. My sword and I have been bonding and I'm hoping that this loving feeling will carry over all the way to the hafla.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Floor update...

...for those that are fascinated with such home improvement projects. I got home yesterday all excited to see the progress and I wasn't disappointed. 95% of the large living room/dining room space had been sanded, and the plywood and other oddities had been patched with new wood.

No longer seeing all of the paint and other damage was SO refreshing. It looked really nice. And the dust really wasn't bad. They had hung sheets to block off the work space. Today they are scheduled to finish sanding the edging in the main space and sand the hall. I'm hoping that the moulding that needs to be replaced will go in today or tomorrow as well. Polyurethane coating is on schedule to begin tomorrow.

And now for the bad news. Although work is on schedule to be completed on Friday, we won't be able to move furniture back into the rooms until Sunday when the polyurethane is fully cured. I wasn't really surprised to hear this, but I'm just *dreading* figuring out what to do with the kids for the majority of the weekend until we can get the house back to normal. Considering the gravity of what I learned, I think I took it rather well. :) *gold star*

I'm just trying to take things one day at a time. Yesterday was very pleasant, with us taking the kids out to eat and a round of mini golf (Anne and I oogled the pond fish and chased after golf balls) and Mike and I watching The Bletchley Circle on PBS after the kids went to bed. Tonight, we're eating dinner over at my in-laws and I have an evening session with Claire to have her look over my sword work. So it'll be another happily busy night.

Tomorrow, Henry has Cub Scouts so Anne and I will have to find ways to amuse ourselves. Henry has been wanting to get involved in Scouts, but the troop (pack? den? Cub Scout language still eludes me) at his school meets on a day that just doesn't work with our schedule. I prayed about it for a long time and ultimately suggested to Mike that he and Hank try out the pack at our parish. Henry was worried because he won't know any of the boys there like he does at his school, but they gave it a try last Wednesday and both loved it. They're happily going back tomorrow and I'm very excited for Henry. We'll see how this continues to develop.

Monday, May 6, 2013

And so it begins...and a lovely May installment of Children's Liturgy of the Word

Well, the contents of our dining room and living room are now in a combination of our guest room, Henry's bedroom (he has so much more space in his room than we do because he has a smaller bed and less furniture), the garage, the basement, and a few area rugs rolled up into the kitchen. I managed to see all this to fruition without having a heart attack. I'm very proud of myself.

I have it easier than Mike does, who is done teaching for the semester and thus is home with Anne trying to find things for them to do outside of the house all day while the men are working. Luckily, his parents live very close to us, so they'll hang with them a lot. Mike reported in to me this morning that the crew arrived on time and got right to work, saying they would be there until about 3 or 3:30 this afternoon. Today's task was some board replacement (the plywood spots) and sanding. Things should be a mess by time we get home tonight. :) But to get the final product things have to get worse before they get better.

Poor, precious little Anne was distressed all weekend by the dwindling furniture in the main living space as we gradually moved things out. She came up to me with wide, saucer eyes this morning asking after the basket of toys that usually resides in the living room. Her biggest concern is for her peg saint dolls, which we keep on the mantle.


She's on a first name basis with her saints.

"Joan will be back next weekend, Sweetheart. She's on vacation."

"Anne? Therese?"

"Them too, Honey."


My God, the children. The little Fatima children were definitely on her mind. Poor babe.

I think that tomorrow is the final sanding run, and there may even be some stain applied. After that, it will just be several mornings of polyurethane going down and waiting for it to dry before beginning all over again. We'll get there. I'll have before and after pictures.

In other news, I had Children's Liturgy of the Word yesterday. We talked about the continuation of Easter season, the readings, May sacraments, and the rosary. Several of the little girls present had just made their First Communion the day before. They volunteered a correct definition of the Eucharist being the actual body and blood of Jesus.

*beams with pride*

It was good, and likely one of my last sessions with them for the year. I'll probably have another one in late May and/or early June, and that'll be the end of my run with the program, for now anyway. I'm looking for a new volunteer opportunity, so we'll see.

St. Gerard Novena, Day 9...

Novena to St. Gerard

Most Blessed Trinity, I, Your child, thank You for all the gifts and privileges which You granted to St. Gerard, especially for those virtues with which You adorned him on earth and the glory which You now impart to him in heaven. Accomplish Your work, Oh Lord, so that Your kingdom may come about on earth. Through his merits, in union with those of Jesus and Mary, grant me the grace for which I ask.... (Mention your request)
And you, my powerful intercessor, St. Gerard, always so ready to help those who have recourse to you, pray for me. Come before the throne of Divine Mercy and do not leave without being heard. To you I confide this important and urgent affair.... Graciously take my cause in hand and do not let me end this novena without having experienced in some way the effects of your intercession. Amen. 

Pray 9 Hail Mary's.

Friday, May 3, 2013

May is a wonderful month to be a Catholic, and other upcoming weekend shenanigans...

For those of us that grew up Catholic, May is a month of Marian crownings, First Communion and Confirmation. Lots of lovely sacraments and traditions enmeshed in here. We still have a year to go before Henry makes his First Communion, but I see it on the calendar for his school for this Saturday, and they have a May crowning next week. :) Adorable.

I'm on duty for the Children's Liturgy of the Word this Sunday, and in my quest to go out with a bang, I took the time to print out some leaflets to give to the kids about how to pray the rosary, including small photos of each mystery. I'll talk about that for a spell in addition to the readings from the lectionary. After this, I'll probably have only one more CLOW to run. I'd like to volunteer in the parish in some other way, but I'm not certain exactly how yet. I'm sure something will present itself.

In the mean time, the kids are enjoying our new springtime weather. Anne is running around in nothing but a Onesie and wearing summer jammies to bed that make her more adorable than usual, as if that was even possible. She's been particularly sassy lately:


"Anne sweetheart, Mommy is in the bathroom. Could you close the door?"


"Why don't you go see Dora?"


"YES, the Map! Go see the Map!"

"Hold that Map."

"You can see him, but you can't hold the Map, Sweetie."

"Kiss that Map."

"I'm sure he would appreciate that, Darling."

"I'm the Map, I'm the Map..."

*Anne races off, leaving door wide open*

As well, we have our hardwood refinishing coming up on Monday, and your Catholic Librarian, while remarkably level-headed and calm (*snort*), is still feeling some apprehension about the disruption this will cause to our household. Our couch is going to have to go into the garage and all of the other furniture from our living room and dining room is going to have to be smashed into the kitchen and the small office.


But the floor *really* needs to be refinished, this isn't a frivolous project. There is *plywood* in some places and paint spatters abound. This is what we found when we lifted the wall-to-wall gold carpeting after we moved in. It's a good floor that was treated very badly and it's needed to be refinished for years. I know we'll be so glad that we did it when it's finished, but it will be painful in the interim.

We're planning some family activities for the evenings next week as well as some inexpensive places to eat out. We'll see how this goes. :-\ One day at a time though, and on Monday we're taking the kids to our local golf dome. We were there a few weeks ago for a birthday party, and both children LOVED it. Nice restaurant with inexpensive but good food looking out onto the golfing, and afterward we can play mini golf while one of us chases a golf ball-wielding Anne. Good times.

St. Gerard Novena, Day 8...

Novena to St. Gerard

Most Blessed Trinity, I, Your child, thank You for all the gifts and privileges which You granted to St. Gerard, especially for those virtues with which You adorned him on earth and the glory which You now impart to him in heaven. Accomplish Your work, Oh Lord, so that Your kingdom may come about on earth. Through his merits, in union with those of Jesus and Mary, grant me the grace for which I ask.... (Mention your request)
And you, my powerful intercessor, St. Gerard, always so ready to help those who have recourse to you, pray for me. Come before the throne of Divine Mercy and do not leave without being heard. To you I confide this important and urgent affair.... Graciously take my cause in hand and do not let me end this novena without having experienced in some way the effects of your intercession. Amen. 

Pray 9 Hail Mary's.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

My latest experiment with daily prayer: Magnificat magazine...

I've flirted with Magnificat before, and at one point before I got married I had a subscription for years. I eventually stopped subscribing because I found myself not using it as much, and I also a full set of the Liturgy of the Hours books. It's not a cheap subscription, so I let it go.

Well, this past Lent showed for sure and for certain that the Liturgy of the Hours just isn't happening at this point in my life. It's not that I don't have the time; it's that in the (somewhat limited) free time that I do have, I'm not disciplined enough to devote the necessary time to it. At some future point it will hopefully be possible, just not right now.

So I tried Magnificat again. Since I last subscribed, they added an option for a 6 month subscription for $24.95. Although you don't save as much money as if you subscribed for a longer period of time, this is a nice option for trying out the magazine at an inexpensive price. No need to shell out $45 for a full year if you're not going to like it or use it. And fyi, Magnificat offers a free sample issue to anybody to wants one, so do take them up on that to get a sense of the magazine if you've never used it before.

My first issue to arrive was May. I was very excited to tuck it into my purse yesterday and pray Morning Prayer. I am so, so glad that I gave this another chance. What Magnificat does is modify Morning and Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours (they include selections of the psalms and readings only) into a shorter format. It also includes the daily Mass readings and prayers, and the Order of Mass, so you can use this instead of a permanent or annual Missal. Each day also includes a meditation and a saint story. The saint stories were always my favorite. There will be a short biography of the saint on the calendar, but the section I'm talking about is called "Saints of Today and Yesterday" and discusses a saint I've never heard of before. As is always the case with saint stories, the details are fascinating, sometimes morbidly so. :)There will be a few articles at the very beginning, an editorial and one other, addressing a theme for the month.The cover always features beautiful sacred art (and there is a description of the cover art in the back, along with another featured work of art that is given a full color display and a longer discussion).

This is really a wonderful publication. It's so much more than merely a magazine, but it's also more than a devotional. It's a daily prayer companion. If anybody else subscribes to Magnificat or starts up a subscription, do leave a comment and let me know how you like it.

St. Gerard Novena Day 7...

Novena to St. Gerard

Most Blessed Trinity, I, Your child, thank You for all the gifts and privileges which You granted to St. Gerard, especially for those virtues with which You adorned him on earth and the glory which You now impart to him in heaven. Accomplish Your work, Oh Lord, so that Your kingdom may come about on earth. Through his merits, in union with those of Jesus and Mary, grant me the grace for which I ask.... (Mention your request)
And you, my powerful intercessor, St. Gerard, always so ready to help those who have recourse to you, pray for me. Come before the throne of Divine Mercy and do not leave without being heard. To you I confide this important and urgent affair.... Graciously take my cause in hand and do not let me end this novena without having experienced in some way the effects of your intercession. Amen. 

Pray 9 Hail Mary's.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The end of an era for some local schools...

When I came downstairs for breakfast this morning, I saw that Mike had set aside the front page of the paper for me and placed it by my chair, which he always does for any Catholic news items.

"Holy Angels is closing. It's a big story."

We live in an area of former growth from Italian and Polish immigrants. As you can imagine, that means that there are a lot of Catholics here. Consequently, you can't do a hip bump without running into a Catholic parish or school. Well, at least you *used to*.

In recent years, our bishop had the highly unpopular task of getting the diocese into better financial shape by closing parishes and schools. This was necessary because of significant population shift. We live in the Rust Belt. People have moved south and west, and the people that have stayed have shifted from the city to the suburbs. So all of these beautiful 100+ year old church buildings and schools were closed, and naturally people were very upset about it. Our parish's school closed three years ago. It had been open since 1897. As devastating as that is, I can understand that you can't keep a school open when there are only 80 children enrolled in the school populating grades pre-k through 8. It's just not financially tenable.

Most recently, it's the Catholic elementary schools that were hit the hardest. Four K-8 schools closed just in our immediate township and the neighboring city border. So far Hank's school has been spared, and we're praying it stays that way.

Holy Angels, on the other hand, is the first high school casualty that I know if. It's a Catholic girls high school in the city (including a fairly new prep school division for girls in grades 6-8), and interestingly it's not under the control of the diocese. It was founded by the Gray Nuns of the Sacred Heart and has been supported by them for the past *152 years*. They have donated an astonishing amount of money from their retirement fund and sold property in an effort to save the school, and it looks like it wasn't enough. The school principal and president has stated that declining enrollment is the death knell, due mostly to the closing of two of it's "feeder schools" and general economic recession/fundraising problems.

There is also a lot of competition. There are multiple Catholic high schools in this area, many of which are single sex like Holy Angels. There is a Catholic boys high school a stone's throw from our house that we're hoping to send Hank to (prayers for scholarships much appreciated :)) and two girls high schools for us to choose from for Anne. So if your child's elementary school closed and you chose another one further away, you are probably more likely to then look at the high schools nearer to your new elementary school since your child will want to stay with their friends.

It's a toughie. I hate to see a school like this close, one that was a charism for a religious order. I saw lots of talk about it on Facebook this morning, interestingly. Alumni and graduates of other local Catholic schools broken up by it.

This phenomena is not isolated in the Catholic schools, however. I read an article in the newspaper this weekend about our public school district. They just finished an assessment of the entire district and have about a half dozen options for what they're going to do in the coming years to save money and address their own declining enrollment. Almost certainly, some school buildings will close and children will be consolidated into other schools. In at least 3 of these options, the public elementary school down the street from us (where Hank went to kindergarten) will either close or become a building housing only a select few grades. In one option, children would have to change school buildings every 2-3 years! Even though we're in constant fundraising paranoia over in the Catholic schools, I think that overall we're in a better situation.  In fact, this upcoming public school consolidation make cause some parents to send their children to a Catholic school instead. And of course, we'd love to pick up more students, I'm just sorry to see the public district suffering and struggling. Teachers will be laid off, it's going to be very unpleasant. :(

We've got Henry all registered for third grade at his current Catholic school. The school picked up some students this year from the latest Catholic elementary school to close, and I'm hoping this means that they will stay in business. There are two other robust Catholic K-8 schools right in our township, so competition is steep. I prefer Hank's current school; it's smaller and warmer, but that comes at the price of the fundraising paranoia mentioned above.

We'll have to see what happens, but Catholic education is certainly feeling worried right now.

St. Gerard Novena, Day 6

Novena to St. Gerard

Most Blessed Trinity, I, Your child, thank You for all the gifts and privileges which You granted to St. Gerard, especially for those virtues with which You adorned him on earth and the glory which You now impart to him in heaven. Accomplish Your work, Oh Lord, so that Your kingdom may come about on earth. Through his merits, in union with those of Jesus and Mary, grant me the grace for which I ask.... (Mention your request)
And you, my powerful intercessor, St. Gerard, always so ready to help those who have recourse to you, pray for me. Come before the throne of Divine Mercy and do not leave without being heard. To you I confide this important and urgent affair.... Graciously take my cause in hand and do not let me end this novena without having experienced in some way the effects of your intercession. Amen. 

Pray 9 Hail Mary's.